An enthusiastic and spirited crowd gathered at the Tsai Performance Center last Friday for the in-person return of the Redstone Film Festival. The finalists were able to see their films screened in front of a live audience who greeted the images with lots of laughter, gasps and applause.
Zac Vujnov, a recent College of Communication graduate who directed the short film “Roses and Red Noses” which swept the award categories, said the whole process was crazy. Vujnov had to jump from idea to idea partly because of BU restrictions, which continually forced him to get creative.
“The thing that I didn’t expect was just the amount of work and emotion and frustration and the desire to give up and be successful and go for it and get into the festivals,” Vujnov said.
Vujnov’s film, a rom-com featuring amorous clown street performers – uncommon characters in the rom-com genre, he said – has been nominated for awards at Open Gate International, Independent Short Awards and New York Independent Cinema Awards in addition to the Redstone.
When one of the restrictions required actors to wear masks, it changed everything, he said. It was the latest challenge he faced in the pandemic-hit regulatory year and one of the biggest because the masks wouldn’t mimic ‘real life’ on screen, a- he declared.
“Instead of being a surgical mask, I kind of made the mask part of the story,” Vujnov said. “Clowns were the first thing that came to mind.”
The idea paid off for Vujnov’s team, which received awards for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Design, and tied with another film, “Double Take,” for Best Editing. .
Eli Canter, a junior film and television student at the College of Communication who directed “Double Take,” said in his audience award acceptance speech that “it took a lot of students to take time out on their busy schedules to come and the crew, otherwise it literally wouldn’t have been possible.
“Double Take,” a film that begins with two characters fearing they’ll miss their Uber because one of them suffers from a sudden nosebleed, takes a dark turn when their driver turns out to be a con artist.
The idea, Canter said, actually came from his freshman year when he was stuck in a similar situation waiting for an uber with a friend of his who suffered from chronic nosebleeds.
“We’ve actually been writing it for a year, but we never really thought we’d be able to do it in film school because it involved scenes in a moving car, and we were like ‘How do we do it ?’ Canter said. “But last semester I was kind of like you know what we have to do, we’re really proud of the idea of the story, we have to find a way to make it happen.”
“Double Take” also tied for second place for Best Picture with “Manic,” a short film about a young career woman who runs a business where she gets paid by heartbroken ex-girlfriends to go to parties. date and ruin the life of their loser ex-boyfriends who wronged them.
“Originally the script was set in a much nicer apartment in a much nicer restaurant, but COVID ended up shutting down so many of our potential filming locations that we had to convert everything to college level and then transform BU central into a bar for our filming locations,” said Tim Choi, the director of the short film who graduated from COM in January 2022.
Sami Nardone, the lead actress who played career wife Freddie, tied for best actor, a new category added to the Redstone this year.
The other actor who took home the Best Actor award was Matthew Lanon, who portrayed Walter in “Blunt Force Trauma,” a short film featuring two professional crime scene cleanups with opposing personalities.
According to the director, Kaylee Chin, a COM junior, Lanon jumped into the role after the original actor pulled out a few days before filming.
“We started filming without even meeting the guy, which is kind of crazy, but he ended up being amazing and suited the role really well,” Chin said.
“Blunt Force Trauma” also received Best Screenplay and came in third for Best Picture.
Other finalists this year included: “The Haunting at Marblehead Manor,” a short film about two siblings who attempt to extinguish supernatural beings but are ultimately tested with a real ghost in a truly haunted house, and “The Bella Vita”, a raw love story revolving around the tests, sacrifices and decisions people face in relationships in order to advance in their careers.
Charles Merzbacher, professor of COM, said he had taught most of the students in their entry-level production classes and it was amazing to now see how much they have accomplished, especially amid the COVID regulations that required them to come up with stories involving masks, or when actors with the masks had to act only with their eyes.
“It’s amazing how effective it is as storytelling,” Merzbacher said. “The fact that they were willing to do so much work under these conditions, I’m just a little impressed with the students and their resilience.”